(CNN) – A major new U.N. report warns that the climate crisis is threatening the world’s food supply. While farmers across Iowa and Nebraska are feeling the effects of climate change as they grapple with lower crop yields, some are taking unusual and innovative measures to continue growing food.
“We had a very, very wet spring and… too much rain to plant,” Iowa farmer Justin Jordan said.
Jordan is among the millions of American farmers living on an emotional roller coaster that only seems to go down.
“So this corn is almost two feet shorter than it normally is,” Jordan said
Thanks to the unusual spring weather, he’s looking at a 30% drop in yield.
“This is kind of a feeling of helplessness and stress, is what it kind of feels like. So but you just do what you can with what you have to work with,” Jordan said.
At least he has a crop. Too many farmers lost everything to epic floods and even the lucky ones are losing sleep over the fear of an early frost, and trade wars, and the highest farm debt in a generation.
And on top of it all comes the latest alarming report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which finds that growing food from India to Iowa will only get harder as the climate gets harsher.
“We’re going to see, by mid-century, by current projections, that our number of days above 90 degrees is going to rise from about 17 days per year above 90 degrees in Des Moines,” said Dr. Eugene Takle, the professor emeritus of the Iowa State Dept. of Agronomy. “That’ll be up more like 50 to 70.”
The report finds that three-quarters of the earth’s ice-free surface has been paved, plowed or deforested. Great for economies, horrible for nature’s cycles.
And with all the diesel and fertilizer used to grow the modern meal, they say agriculture is to blame for nearly a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions.
But the good news said that right now, every corn plant in this field is pulling carbon out of the sky and putting it in the ground. With the right amount of innovation and financial motivation, a smart farmer can leave it there and still feed the world. Iowa could be one giant carbon sink and unlike miners and drillers and frackers, they don’t have to change careers in order to help.
Over in Nebraska, Brandon Hunnicutt is trying out cutting edge science funded by Bill Gates that uses bacteria instead of the synthetic fertilizer, the stuff that creates ocean dead zones and red tides.
“That’s all a petroleum-based kind of products industry that we live in,” Ernie Sanders, the vice president of product development for Pivot, said. “And the more we can move to a more natural bacterial based, I think that’s better for all of us.”
More and more farmers are reportedly joining in on the movement while also embracing wind energy, cover crops and soil conservation.